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Bob Lind, Published January 16 2011

Lind: Driven to serve

Eight boys were in Henry’s father’s family. Each of those boys went on to have a son. Each of those sons was nicknamed “Bud.”

With so many “Buds” in the family, each Bud was given an additional name to help alleviate the confusion, i.e., “Buddy Elmer,” or in Henry’s case, “Buddy Hank.”

For Henry, the “Buddy” handle stuck. Today, he’s simply Bud Wessman, who became mayor of Grand Forks, a North Dakota legislator, the founder and head of the University of North Dakota physical therapy department, the head of the North Dakota Human Services department; the list rolls on.

Bud now resides in Fargo where three of his children live. He’s 73, but he’s far from retired; he works as an appeals resolution consultant for Noridian Administrative Services, a Medicare contractor.

“I went to work at 6:30 today,” he said recently. “I’m retired, but I enjoy working.”

Last year UND gave Bud its Sioux Award, its highest honor, for all he’s done for the university and the area.

He’s proud of it but humbled, too. He says many people have contributed to his success.

Right up at the top is his wife, Lorraine.

High school sweethearts

Bud and Lorraine dated when they were Milaca (Minn.) High School seniors, and he proposed to her on their graduation night in 1955. They married two years later.

They had five children, and “Lorraine gets the credit for raising them,” Bud says. “I was very busy (on his various jobs). I did the best I could with the kids but, really, she’s the one.”

Plus, he says, “I’d never have had the opportunity of doing these things without Lorraine.”

“These things” include serving as Grand Forks’ mayor from 1980 to 1988, serving in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1979 to 1981 and going to UND Law School when he was 51, graduating in three years while working full time.

“I was heading the UND physical therapy department then, and I was encouraging the faculty members to get advanced degrees, so I figured I should, too,” he says.

In the ’90s, Bud was executive director of the state Department of Human Services under Gov. Ed Schafer, who he says was “one of the best, if not the best governor North Dakota has had.”

Bud later was named a federal administrative judge under President Bill Clinton, living in Baltimore and serving on a board that provides administrative hearings for hospitals, doctors and others dissatisfied with Medicare payments.

Bud, why do you do all this public service?

“I feel the Creator installs three needs in each person,” Bud says: “the need to have a belief in a higher power, the need for family relationships and the need to be productive.

“When the good Lord gives you an opportunity to get an education, to learn skills, you owe it to him and to society to use those skills productively.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to move ahead; for the wisdom, courage and guidance the Lord gives you to move ahead; it comes from having a Christian faith.”

Bud and Lorraine have long been active in the Evangelical Free Church (Faith E. Free in Grand Forks, Bethel in Fargo).

Their children are Vicki Wilson, Loveland, Colo.; Bruce, Bradley and Desiree Fleming, Fargo; and Valerie Hoekstra, New York City. They have 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Bud says he’s “not much of a hobby guy,” but says he “likes to chase walleyes in Minnesota,” and to hunt, travel occasionally and he loves to read.

He also follows the Minnesota Twins and, of course, UND hockey.

And occasionally he reflects on the past.

He thinks of former Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens who he says did “a great job” during the 1997 flood.

And of being briefed several times by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

And of being at the White House with Lorraine.

And of greeting Reagan on the Grand Forks airport tarmac when Bud was mayor.

And of being in politics: “You have to have a thick skin,” he says with a smile.

And of having Lorraine by his side for 53 years.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com